Miguel de Cervantes and the Battle of Lepanto –

The life of Miguel de Cervantes (1547 – 1616), located between the Renaissance and the Baroque, was full of adventures and adversities. He was a soldier in the Battle of Lepanto (1571), and in several other military expeditions, he was captive in Algiers, and was imprisoned for alleged fraud in his position as collector of taxes.

Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes, by Eduardo Balaca

Miguel de Cervanteswho was born in Alcalá de Henares (Spain), was in Italy during his youth when he decided to embark on the Marquise and fight in the Christian army led by John of Austria (son of Carlos V).

For centuries, ottoman turks they did not stop expanding from their territories in what was once the Byzantine Empire. By land, in Africa, and by sea, in the Mediterranean, they launched attacks in the first half of the 16th century that put a check on the Christian domain of the mediterranean region.

Since his election as pope, Pius V tried by all means to gather a Holy Leagueagainst the Turks. Venice, main affected by the advance of the crescent, agreed to be part of the alliance. For her part, the king of Spain he promised considerable forces to strengthen his positions in North Africa.

Thus, the christian army consolidated in Messina in 1571. At dawn on October 7, 1571, the two enemy armies met. Each squad had about 300 shipsbut the armament of the Christians was more suitable for this type of battle, and the Turks returned tired from the Adriatic Sea.

After the boarding and the bloody combat, the Turkish losses rose to more than 200 ships sunk or captured. But the Christians paid dearly for their victory: 8,000 dead and 21,000 wounded. Among these, the hero of the day, John of Austriaand one more unknown combatant: Miguel de Cervanteswho suffered a (not so serious) injury to his left hand which would later give him the nickname “the manco of Lepanto”.

The Battle of Lepanto

Although the news of victory of Lepanto was received with great joy within the Christian world, the spirit of crusade that it intended to promote Pius VHe died the following spring. The Holy League dissolved quickly, because a perpetual war with the nearby Ottomans did not suit the wealthy Republic of Venice.

Three years after the Battle of Lepantothe Turks snatched from the Spanish not only Tunisia (recently conquered by John of Austria), but also the fortress of La Goleta, while the threat of its expansion continued intact.

Miguel de Cervantesmeanwhile, after recovering from his injuries in Italy and staying in Naples until 1575, he began his return to Spainbut it was caught for a ship Ottoman for 5 long years in which he tried to escape more than once from his prison in Algiers (North Africa).

When his ransom was finally paid, Cervantes he came back to Spain in 1581, where he tried to employ himself in various administrative tasks. As a tax collector he was accused of appropriating state money, for which he was temporarily imprisoned. It was during this confinement that he began to devise The Quijote. The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quijote of La Mancha It is the great classic Castilian novel. Under the pretext of whipping the books of chivalry, Miguel de Cervantes presents us with the confrontation of chivalrous idealassumed by the Don Quixote, with a world governed by already very different rules. Faced with the idealism of his lord, Sancho represents realism.

but so much idealism What realism, are not presented as irreducible positions, but constantly interfere with each other. The characters of the Quixote do not represent a single feature, and what is one of the best qualities in the great masterpiece of Cervantes.

Cervantes forever showed pride in having fought in the Battle of Lepantoreferring to her in the prologue of the second part of Don Quixote What: “The highest occasion that the past centuries saw, the present ones, nor do they expect to see the future ones”.


  • Venard, M.: The Beginnings of the Modern World, The World and its History, vols. V and VI, Argos, 1970.
  • Cervantes, M.: Don Quixote de la Mancha, Edition I: 1605-1615